House committee cites 2 SMNI hosts for contempt | Inquirer News

House committee cites 2 SMNI hosts for contempt

/ 05:20 AM December 06, 2023


Lorraine Badoy and Jeffrey Celiz (Photos from the House of Representatives)

MANILA, Philippines — The House Committee on Legislative Franchises on Tuesday cited for contempt two talents of Sonshine Media Network International (SMNI) for disrespect and for their refusal to answer questions, particularly the source for the information that Speaker Ferdinand Martin Romualdez had spent P1.8 billion on traveling expenses.

At the start of the hearing, SMNI talent Jeffrey Celiz claimed that his rights were being violated by the panel, particularly his right to counsel and due process as well as his right to invoke Republic Act 53 or the Sotto Law.


This was after Deputy Majority Leader and Quezon Rep. David Suarez asked him to identify his source from the Senate who gave false information about Romualdez’s travel expenses. Celiz, however, replied that he should be allowed to read a statement first.


When lawmakers insisted that he answer them first, Celiz told the panel that they were “not above the law” and added that since he was not allowed to avail himself of a legal counsel in the previous hearing, all the statements he made should be stricken off the record “because my rights were violated.”

But even after the House committee granted his request for a lawyer, he continued to refuse to name his source and said he could not be compelled to do so under the Sotto Law.

The head of the committee, Parañaque City Rep. Gustavo Tambunting, informed Celiz that the law could only be invoked by “accredited journalists,” adding that the matter pertaining to his supposed Senate source would have repercussions on national security as it affects interparliamentary relations between the two chambers.

Celiz responded that Congress did not have the power to interpret laws and continued to refuse to identify his source despite an offer to disclose the information in an executive session.


Committee vice chair and Surigao del Sur Rep. Johnny Pimentel then moved that he be cited in contempt on the grounds of acting in a disrespectful manner and for refusing to answer questions in a relevant inquiry.

Pimentel further asked that Celiz be detained until after the committee’s report is adopted during a plenary session.


The committee also cited in contempt another SMNI talent Lorraine Marie Badoy, former spokesperson of the National Task Force to End Local Communist Armed Conflict, for refusing to answer the panel’s question pertaining to sponsors of her program in the network.

Manila Rep. Bienvenido Abante moved to have Badoy cited in contempt claiming that, apart from refusing to respond to the panel’s queries, she was being disrespectful by allegedly lying to the committee.

The committee similarly ruled to have Badoy detained until its report is adopted at the plenary session.

The House committee started looking last week into the TV network’s alleged fake news-peddling which was reportedly a violation of the franchise granted to it under Republic Act 11422.


The National Union of Journalists of the Philippines (NUJP), meanwhile, expressed wariness over the recent House resolution filed by PBA Rep. Margarita Ignacia Nograles urging the National Telecommunications Commission to suspend SMNI.

In a statement, the NUJP said that while it was condemning the network’s “Red-tagger” hosts—Badoy and Celiz—for “making a living of demonizing” critics, journalists and activists, the House resolution would trigger a proceeding “that could potentially affect the rights that our community continues to fight for.”

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“While we agree that even media talents should be held accountable and held to ethical standards, this is best done through self-regulation,” the group said. “There is no question that the two red-taggers are due for reckoning, but not in a way that uses the heavy hand of Congress and which sends the same message as it did in the previous administration: Behave or you could be next.”

TAGS: Jeffrey Celiz, Lorraine Badoy, Martin Romualdez, Sonshine Media Network International, travel expenses

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